It’s an interesting story, ‘the woman at the well’, starting at verse six in St. John’s Gospel, chapter four.
The most radical statement I’m going to make is, I like Samaritans. I liked them in the Gospel of St. Luke, (10:30 forward) and I like this chatty woman who sees Jesus at Jacob’s well. In the St. Luke story, a priest and a Levite both walk past an injured man laying in the road, but a Samaritan binds his wounds, takes him to a hotel, pays the room rent, and buys his food. But not the ‘stiff-necked’ Jews of Jesus’ time. Jews don’t talk to Samaritans (in that time) and yet when this particular Jew speaks to her, she’s polite and friendly and she seems perfectly happy to have a conversation with Him. In the best vernacular, ya gotta love a lady like that.
But it’s her growth that is charming and heartwarming to read. She addresses Him as Sir when they first meet; polite yet friendly. As He talks with her about the ‘living water’, I can see her in my mind’s eye trying to work this out – she’s practical, she’s a housekeeper, she has to draw water for cooking and cleaning and that gets to be a grind in the heat and the dust of the road. What in the world can the Gentleman be talking about? I’m reminded of St. Philip, and the eunuch who asks how can he understand Scripture unless someone ‘opens’ it for him. In this manner, Jesus ‘opens’ for her His meaning in ‘living water’.
I do, I’m afraid, have a problem with the Bible’s ascribing ‘prostitute’ to so many women in the stories. Certainly some were, but not all. I don’t think our lady friend at the well was a prostitute; I think that, like a lot of people, she was looking for love in all the wrong places (like the old country/western song). When Jesus tells her He knows she’s had five ‘husbands’, rather than defend herself and the choices she’s made, she says she perceives Him to be a prophet. I love this exchange between them. Jesus does not accuse or insult or condemn, He simply lets her know He knows. And she is not insulted or hurt or embarrassed. Because He loves her, and she perceives more than a prophet in Him – His gentle heart also.
I chuckle to myself when I read that He tells her to bring her husband to Him at the well. I see her scurrying off down the road, looking back to make sure He’s still there; she’s all ‘aflutter’ because something, Someone, exciting is happening here and she can’t wait to share it. I’m reminded of another story, the story of the housewife who lost a penny – she looks all over the house, sweeps the floor, and on finding it, she celebrates with her neighbors that she’s found the penny. Our little lady at the well can’t wait to celebrate what she’s found at the well and dashes down the road to her town. When she gets there, she doesn’t just tell her husband about the Man, she tells all the men she can – “look what I found!”
You know the rest of the story; the men all come to the well and Jesus speaks with them and stays there a few days. I’m laughing again because the men all say, we believe He is the Massiah – not because YOU said so, (my emphatic) but because of all that He told us. Men – gotta love ’em.
But our little lady at the well grows in understanding and the joy she exhibits in telling the town folk touches my heart. We should all be dashing into town, excited to tell of Jesus. Evidently, we haven’t grown as much as she.